More than any other sub-Saharan country, Ethiopia is known for its unique and diverse culture. It has a magical combination of ancient and prestigious history, mythology and connections with the earliest forms of Christianity, making it a textured and rich culture. It is also inescapable that Ethiopia was the only country on the continent to escape the throes of colonisation – as a result, its culture has survived fairly unscathed.
Ethiopia is our homeland, and we hold a profound respect for its ethnic diversity, traditions and culture. Travelling with us will enable you to experience part of this magical culture less like a tourist and more like an old friend of Abyssinia. Sharing a plate of injera (the national dish) while enjoying a music performance at a cultural bar will give you an idea of the uniqueness of this country. Local markets abound with original and colourful traditional handcrafts and are a great place to soak up the hustle and bustle of daily life in Ethiopia. All of these activities can be worked into your itinerary with us.
Many people have said that eating “Ethiopian-style” forces the diner to rethink common assumptions about eating. This is mainly due to the foundation of nearly every meal is “injera”, a unique rubbery pancake made from teff, the staple carbohydrate in Ethiopia. With its tangy, bitter and slightly sour taste, injera is unlike anything many travellers will have tried before. Ingera replaces plates, bowls and utensils and is topped with mounds of delicious arrays of spicy stews “wot”. Diners break off a piece of injera (often shared among a group) and use it to scoop up the accompaniment. Ethiopia is also famous for kitfo (mince meat cooked lightly with spices), tibs (small strips of meat served with injera) and tere sega (raw meat served on very special occasions).
Ethiopia is also world-renowned for its coffee claiming to be its original home. Coffee remains a daily staple for almost all Ethiopians. “Bunna bets” or coffee houses are everywhere in Ethiopia – coffee is traditionally drunk very strong and short with sugar and sometimes with the herb, rue. Experiencing a traditional coffee ceremony during important; it typifies Ethiopian hospitality and is a lengthy procedure that marks friendship and respect.
The lager industry is also growing rapidly in Ethiopia, offering a range of brands and you can also try the tella, a local brewed beer. For wine-lovers, the wine industry is gradually expanding by producing standard high-quality wines, particularly in the Rift Valley where vines have been imported from France.
Alternatively, the local honey wine (“tej”) will allow you to experience another popular tipple with the locals.
Delicious and healthy fresh juices made of papaya, mango, avocado, orange or guava, depending on the season are also affordable and widely available – and are popular with both locals and visitors.
Your Inside guides will be able to advise you on local food culture and food traditions.
ETHIOPIAN MUSIC AND DANCE
Ethiopian music is another aspect of its cultural identity that is as unique as it is diverse, becoming one of Africa’s greatest legacies with its peculiar rhythms and mix of both traditional and contemporary sounds. In daily life, music is unavoidable, whether the beat of a single drum at Church, the azmari (wandering minstrel) or contemporary afro-beats inspired pop. Whilst the Church was originally the source of music and all cultural expression in Ethiopia, now the variety is vast. From the first imperial brass band, Arba Lijotch, (“40 children” in reference to a group of Armenian orphans) during Haile Selassie’s era, to the exotic styles from the 50’s such as jazz, RandB or blues, the Ethiopian music scene has gradually evolved to combine traditional Ethiopian sounds with influences from abroad. Nowadays, Ethiopia has many successful contemporary artists; Aster, Gigi, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete and Teddy Afro are popular and well-known across the continent.
Dance is an extremely important part of life in Ethiopia and almost every ethnic group has its own distinct variety. Watching a dance performance during your stay will enable you to enjoy one of the most impressive cultural attractions of the country. Therefore, we recommend a visit to a traditional bar during your stay in Ethiopia. Visitors and locals alike enjoy these places, so you will not feel out of place and are guaranteed to have a memorable experience!
ETHIOPIAN ARTS AND CRAFTS
Ethiopian local markets are colourful and have a wonderful display of traditional products and artisanal wares. Traditional handcrafts include basketry, woodcarving, weaving, pottery, weaponry, leatherwork, beadwork, jewellery, painting, and many more.
We highly recommend a visit to a local market during your stay and can organise this for you either in Addis Ababa (where Merkato, the largest open market in Africa, is found) or at another destination on your itinerary. The Ethiopian art scene is booming. Many visitors enjoy discovering the vibrant iconography of the Christian Church, which adorns secular and religious buildings everywhere. In addition, there are a number of the most famous Ethiopian painters we can name Afewerk Tekle, known for his stained glass creations, African paintings and Christian themes.
Nowadays, Addis Ababa is increasing the number of art galleries due to the emerging art scene in the country. One of these galleries is Makush, located in Addis Ababa, with a collection of more than 650 paintings from 70 artists.
ETHIOPIA: A NATURAL ENVIRONMENT LIKE NO OTHER
From the lowest land in Africa to the highlands of the Simien Mountains and the unpredictable escarpments of the Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia hosts a large number of species, many of them endemic to the country. Visiting the National Parks enables visitors to enter an unpredictable land rich in nature and wildlife. If you are interested in Nature we recommend our “North Route”, “South Route” and “Eastern Route” itineraries which encompass some of the World’s most remarkable natural habitats.
ETHIOPIAN NATURAL PARKS
Ethiopia is home to several national parks that enable visitors to enjoy the country’s scenery and wildlife, conserved in their natural habitats. There is a great variety of vegetation ranging from low desert plants to afro-alpine forests due to the altitude variations and different climatic conditions.
The nine national parks in Ethiopia offer the opportunity to visit extensive highlands and indigenous rain forests, as well as savannah environments.
In the highlands, both Bale and Simien Mountains National Parks offer spectacular scenery mostly suitable for hikers, though it is also accessible by road. In the Rift Valley, you can visit Yagudi Rassa Awash and the southern National Parks of Abiata-Shalla and Nechisar.
The Omo Valley hosts the most important reserves for large game; we recommend the Omo National Park, Gambella National Park and the Mago National Park where you can still spot substantial populations of mammals. Our informed and highly expert guides will be able to help you identify a number of plant and animal species on your tour.
Like the topography, Ethiopia’s ecology is diverse and full of contrast. Consequently, there is a great number of endemic species of fauna like the Ethiopian wolf, the gelada baboon, the mountain nyala, Menelik’s bushbuck, the Walia ibex and the Somali wild ass.
Ethiopia’s stunning scenery also offers the opportunity to find a large number of predators such as hyenas, leopards, Abysinnian lions, cheetahs and black-backed jackals; primates such as guereza or black and white colobus, grivet and Bale monkeys, Anubis and Hamadryas baboons; antelopes such as bushbucks, kudus, different gazelles and hartebeests species, gerenuks, reedbucks, oryx and a large etc. and other large mammals like elephants, giraffes, bush pigs, black rhinos, hippopotamus and zebras.
Ethiopia is also home to a number of reptiles including the Nile crocodile and different species of tortoises, lizards and snakes.
BIRDWATCHING IN ETHIOPIA
The proximity of Ethiopia to the Equator and the diverse habitat places the country as one of the top bird watching destinations in Africa.
Ethiopia is believed to host more than 800 bird species, of which more than 600 are resident (or presumed resident) and the remainder are Palaearctic or intra-African migrants.
Ornithological itineraries are normally focused on the southern area although there are also some endemics found in the northern part of Ethiopia.
Travelling through the Rift Valley, the Bale Highlands, Negele Borena and Yabello surroundings or Nechisar and Awash National parks will provide you the perfect introduction to African birds and the experience to observe and be fascinated by a rich variety of birdlife. Endemic species to Ethiopia include the blue-winged woose, the hardwood’s spurfowl, the yellow-fronted parrot and the white-tailed swallow and are commonly included in bird tours.
EXPLORE ETHIOPIA IN DIFFERENT WAYS
If you are sporty, Ethiopia can offer you some unforgettable opportunities. Even though running is the most popular sport in the country, other activities such as trekking, rock climbing or cycling can be easily arranged for tourists. Please contact us if you would like us to incorporate any of these activities in your itinerary.
ADVENTURE TOURS IN ETHIOPIA
Travelling through Ethiopia is an adventurer’s dream. Going across the country will lead you back to ancient times full of history. Getting to know the assorted and extremely generous local tribes will make you feel warmly welcomed and at home. Discovering the wildlife with amazing trekking routes or boat trips will not leave you indifferent. As the only African country that it has never been colonised, Ethiopia still keeps its traditions mostly intact.
One of the most adventurous and stunning trips in Ethiopia is the Danakil Depression, where visitors are charmed by the long camel caravans transporting salt bars to the highlands; the stunning hike near the Erta Ale volcano; or the visit to the colourful formations of Dallol, the deepest part of the Danakil Depression.
Regardless of the tour you choose, travelling to Ethiopia is an adventure from the first day until the end of the tour. Click here to see a summary of our itineraries or contact us to devise your own tailor-made adventure.
TREKKING IN ETHIOPIA
Blessed with a temperate climate, alpine mountain scenery and the tradition of generous hospitality, the Ethiopian highlands are superb trekking sites.
Trekking in Ethiopia requires physical fitness because the terrain is steep and rugged, and depending on the season, there can be afternoon rainstorms.
Hikers will reach altitudes above 4,000 meters (13,120 feet); having the right equipment is also important in order to enjoy the experience. The four most established areas for trekking are the Simien Mountains and Bale Mountains National Parks, Adaba-Dodola Integrated Forest (near the Bale Mountains) and the Meqet community trekking in the Wollo highlands near Lalibela. The difficulty of the trekking ranges from easy to hard, so tours can be adapted to the visitor’s requirements. Camping or visiting community villages in these areas will probably make the best out of your tour to the country.
Ethiopia’s mountain physiognomy is excellent for rock climbing with a massive variety of rock types, climbing styles and grades.
The fact that there are monasteries carved high up in the mountains of Tigray only reachable by climbing is just a reminder of Ethiopian’s geological prowess.
For the experienced climber, there are some recent routes that are worth the try. In addition, the number of climbs being established is increasing.
Bouldering and rock climbing routes are available in Bale Mountains, near the Mount Zuqualla, in Abelti Hill and in Asela. There are also some climbing sites near Hawassa, in Boro Crag and in Shashemene, among other places.
Amora Gedel, in the outskirts of Addis Ababa, is a recent 60 meters vertical wall with different routes placed by the American rock climber Nicholas Parkinson.
Contact us for more information and to start planning your adventure today!
DO NOT MISS OUT ETHIOPIAN EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS IN ETHIOPIA
Being part of religious festivals is a wonderful way to experience Ethiopian culture as these events play an important role in Ethiopians’ daily life. Thus, many of our travellers try to schedule their trip to coincide with important festivals such as the Ethiopian Christmas (“Genna”), Epiphany (“Timkat”), and Ethiopian New Year (“Meskel”). Most of the religious events in Ethiopia are part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and even though they are widely celebrated throughout the country, there are unique ceremonies held in important cities such as Timkat in Gondar, Christmas in Lalibela and Meskel in Addis Ababa. The Islamic holidays are also celebrated throughout the year. (Please note that as Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, they fall on different dates each year.) If you want to plan your trip to coincide with a religious festival, we have listed the main religious events below which can be integrated into one of our tours.
Ethiopian public holidays are regulated by the Public Holidays and Rest Day (Amendment) Proclamation (No. 29 of 1996) and they include both religious festivals days and also some significant dates to commemorate the events of the Ethiopian history.
Ethiopian Orthodox festivals:
7th Jan: Genna (Ethiopian Christmas)
19th Jan: Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany)
Moveable: Fasika (Ethiopian Easter)
11th Sep: Enkutatash (Etiopian New Year)
26th Sep: Meskel
Muslim festivals (moveable):
Eid al Fitr (End of Ramadan)
Eid al -Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
2nd Mar: Victory of Adwa
1st May: International Labour’s Day
5th May: Patriot’s Day
28th May: Derg Downfall Day
ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS IN ETHIOPIA
Ethiopia is famous for running. The legendary Abebe Bikila, the unstoppable and renowned Haile Gebreselassie and the current 10,000 metres champion Tirunesh Dibaba are just some examples of great Ethiopian runners. Running in Ethiopia is part of the culture and it is also becoming very popular among both international professionals and amateurs. There are many competitions throughout the year targeted for children, men and women. Do not hesitate to contact us to join any upcoming running event. [INSERT LINK]
Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia and one of the most vibrant cities in Africa, is becoming the host of different cultural events spread throughout the year. The film industry is represented through different festivals (both national and international), such as the Colours of the Nile Film Festival and the European Film Festival. Ethiopian music is promoted in different musical events nationwide. As an example, the Acacia Jazz festival is now a reference for international artists coming to Ethiopia to get the Abyssinian rhythms.
We have included a list of the top Ethiopian events that visitors often like to arrange their trip around:
Ethiopian Great Run and other competitions:
22nd Nov: Great Ethiopian Run International (10km)
7th Aug: Abijatta-Shalla Lakes Ethiotrail (12km, 21 km or 42 km)
Girls empowerment races (moveable)
Colours of the Nile Film Festival (March)
European Film Festival (June)
Addis International Film Festival (June)
Iberoamerican Film Festival (November)
Selam Festival (January)
Acacia Jazz Festival (February)
Arba Minch Festival of Music and Dance (December)
BE ENCHANTED BY ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE
Ethiopia, with more than 80 ethnic groups, has a diverse cultural and historical identity. The three quarters of the total population (now estimated over 90 million) are part of the Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigreans ethnic groups. Even though the physical appearance of Ethiopians is very different, ranging from a light skinned western eurasian admixed to Sub-Sharan Phenotypes, they all have something in common: their kindness and happy attitude. Welcome to the land of the smiley faces 🙂
Inside Ethiopia Tours is a local tour operator with its head office located in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa. We are experts in providing unique sustainable experience at competitive prices. Join the Inside experts!
Kirkos Subcity – Woreda 3
Kazanchis Building 1289
Office NO. 02/14
In front of UNECA building
P.O. Box 21553